Having sat through my first Capital Budget as a Councillor, there are some very real facts that you as the public should know from the inside.
#1 There are a lot of problems to solve and very little money to pay for it. Council passed a $39 million capital budget, but only $6.6 million was from taxes. $9.4 million came from user fees (water mostly) and over $10 million came from the federal and provincial governments. $10 million came from reserve funds from our operating budget.
There is a Roads Report that puts priorities on roads based on weighted criteria.
#2 Debt financing will come into play very shortly. We are set, based on decisions in the last 4 years, to take on $75 million in debt by the end of this council. When we take on debt, the biggest cost to the taxpayer is debt servicing or principal and interest payments. It’s a big number, which will amount to $5 million more per year for the city in 2022.
#3. Without growth, there are very few opportunities to pay for infrastructure without tax hikes.
Roads need to be fixed. That’s loud and clear.
Municipalities have talked about a deficit for many years. There was talk in the last year of an AMO resolution to take 1% out of HST or even raising HST to pay for it.
The only other alternative is growth. Growth brings new taxes and development fees, user fees, jobs, and new tax payers. It is a viable alternative, and something Belleville and the Region is primed for. It may be the only way we can take care of our infrastructure effectively.
Two things that I have initiated in Council for growth include the Rural Immigration Pilot Project for skilled trades (in cooperating with Hastings County and other partners regionally) and a new Economic Development Council (passed March 11 at Council).
The real solution to the Capital Riddle is growth, and we must be vigilant or risk unaffordable circumstances.